Wednesday, January 21, 2015

National Philanthropy Day Every Day

I hope you’re working on submitting your nominations for our National Philanthropy Day Honors program. Anyone can submit a short, “selfie” video—just you talking to the camera, speaking from the heart as you describe how your nominee is changing your the world.

Part of our core responsibilities as fundraisers is recognition, and I know each of you has at least one donor or supporter—individual or organization—that has had significant impact on your organization and your community. So please submit a nomination, and we’re excited about our National Philanthropy Day Honors event in New York City in November later this year.

But as much as we focus on one day in November and our final honorees, we want to make National Philanthropy Day bigger than just one day. Because philanthropy is bigger than just one day.

There’s so much amazing philanthropy that occurs every day, and we want to be able to celebrate it all. That’s why we’ll be using the National Philanthropy Day campaign and its website to highlight philanthropy throughout the year. We want to illustrate the diverse and often complicated tapestry that is philanthropy by profiling donors, volunteers, corporations, foundations and young people every week.

We want your stories. We want your videos. We want to hear about how different people are vastly dissimilar things, but all related to philanthropy and helping make a difference. Even if your nominee isn’t selected as our final honoree, it’s likely we’ll be highlighting him or her at some point throughout the year.

People want to be philanthropic. But they don’t always know how to start, and sometime they need inspiration.

National Philanthropy Day can be that inspiration.

Help us demonstrate the amazing impact that philanthropy has on our society and our world. Submit a nomination, tell us a story and help us celebrate National Philanthropy Day every day in 2015.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy New Year!

AFP enjoyed a great year in 2014—from new programs and research to growing membership numbers around the world and greater member participation in our work. I hope your organization had a tremendous year as well—the news I’m hearing from charities as I talk with chapters and members is very positive.

But now 2015 is here, and it’s natural to think about what the fundraising profession may experience over the next 12 months.

You can read a lot about upcoming donor and fundraising trends in other blogs, so let me throw out a few at you that you might not see elsewhere.

One, more debate and proposals about tax reform are coming, particularly in the U.S. With the specter of the 2016 presidential election already looming, 2015 looks to be an especially busy year. Will proposed reforms ultimately be harmful or helpful for fundraising? At this point it’s hard to tell, but it’s likely we’ll need your help again in contacting Members of Congress later this year.

Two, fundraising has bounced back, and so have fundraisers. Donors are re-engaging, and our challenge will be to keep them motivated and involved.  Our donor retention efforts are improving, as the latest study from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows. How much effort do we put into new donors vs. existing donors? It’s a good choice to have over the past few years, and I’ll be curious to see how your organizations do.

And finally, three: it’s almost guaranteed that during this year, you’re going to be overwhelmed with information, data and research about fundraising and giving. This is a growing, but little noticed issue—with so many studies, reports, articles and blogs, where do we turn? What information and trends ARE the most important to watch?

It’s an issue I’m increasingly concerned about, and AFP will be focused on ways to bring you the most important news and the best data, condensed to fit your schedule but with links and other ways you can explore in-depth if you want. Time is perhaps your most important resource, and AFP is committed to being there for you but in ways that respect your busy calendar and responsibilities.

What do see you as key challenges and issues for the year?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Worth Fighting For

Incentives matter.

Inspiration is key. Connections are critical. Relationship-building and stewardship are instrumental to long-term success.

But the financial incentives involved in most giving are also an important aspect of philanthropy.

That fact is, even if some donors don’t take a deduction or credit, tax incentives make a huge difference in giving.

I was on the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) America Radio Network recently talking with its president, Ted Hart, ACFRE, about its recent study of how different governments support charity through incentives.

The Rules to Give By Index found that the percentage of people donating money to charity is 12 percentage points higher in nations offering tax incentives to individuals (33 percent) than in those that do not (21 percent).

Those are important figures to think about, especially as we’ve just concluded another year in the U.S. defending the charitable deduction, as well as fighting for other incentives such as the IRA Rollover, while in Canada we’re beginning to see the impact of the two year-old First Time Donors’ Super Credit.

And when we advocate for these incentives, we’re not just fighting for more giving. We’re making a statement about what we believe in. We’re educating government about the message it needs to send to the public about the importance of giving and volunteering. We’re creating a mechanism for more people to get involved. We’re creating the means for impact and transformation, finding solutions to meet long-term needs.

As we near the end of the year, let’s remember that some of the gifts we receive—and the size of those gifts—are due to the incentives, either because of the direct tax implications or the environment that the incentives help create.

Even little changes to the charitable deduction can have a huge impact. Incentives matter—and they’re worth fighting for.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

National Philanthropy Day

There are so many inspirational words that we use during National Philanthropy Day: generosity, selflessness, dedication, leadership and charity, to name just a few. All are descriptive and accurate of what philanthropy is all about.

But there’s one term—one idea—that, for me, gets to the heart of why we celebrate National Philanthropy Day.


To serve: a cause, a mission, a memory, a wish, a person or a legacy.

I don’t know if many people consciously think about service when they give, volunteer or otherwise engage in philanthropy. Maybe they’re “giving back” or “paying it forward” or just want to help others.
But to me, service is the most accurate term that describes what they’re doing. Taking our needs and resources and serving someone or something else—a cause that is bigger than ourselves.

It’s fitting that National Philanthropy Day falls right around Veterans Day, one of the most important days we have to remember those fought and died in the name of service to this country and the ideals of freedom and democracy. It’s fitting that National Philanthropy Day falls right in the middle of what we have termed “the giving season,” a critical time for giving, volunteering and service.

And so on National Philanthropy Day, we honor those who serve our communities and our world through philanthropy—in countless celebrations across North America, including our inaugural National Philanthropy Day Honors in Washington, D.C.

I’m reminded of the children of A. Gary Anderson, who serve the legacy of their father’s philanthropy through the work of our outstanding foundation, the A. Gary Anderson Family Foundation.
I’m reminded of Princeton Carter, one of our youth honorees, who serves homeless veterans and many others in his native New Orleans.

I’m reminded of the service of Senator Terry Mercer and MP Geoff Regan, who led the charge to create a permanent National Philanthropy Day in Canada as a message to all people about the importance of giving and volunteering.

And I hope that our new Congress—recently elected here in the U.S.—will follow in their footsteps and remember to serve all of our communities and our people.

Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, whatever the activity—thank you for your service. On National Philanthropy, let’s celebrate the incredible impact that we all have in the world through philanthropy and service.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Holiday Solicitations and Donor Expectations

A recent column in the Ottawa Citizen expresses dissatisfaction with amount of charity solicitations that are being sent as the holiday season approaches.

On one hand, the general tone of the piece highlights the lack of awareness and recognition of the professionalism that fundraising now entails. Fundraising is a profession, conducted by trained professionals, who conduct fundraising in a certain way because our research and body of knowledge has shown us what’s effective.

Yes, direct mail solicitations during the holidays have been sent for years, but they continue to be sent because they’re successful. Charities do what works—just like any for-profit company would. If they didn’t, they would be out of business—again, just like a for-profit organization would.

On the other hand, I can understand the reader’s frustration. As fundraising professionals, we need to be working to better understand our donors and track what they want. This reader clearly wants to be contacted via email, and there are too many organizations that aren’t practicing up to the standards of the profession. Giving donors preferences about how they want to be contacted—and honoring those preferences—is Fundraising 101. But too many charities still aren’t seeing our donors as people, and simply as a way to get a quick gift over the holidays.

We have to communicate—both internally and externally—about our standards and the work we do. We need to tell the public what we really do—that’s it not a guessing game and pure luck, but that we learn and research and plan and executive complicated plans to reach out to people. And we need to tell our colleagues what we SHOULD be doing—that we are only as strong as our weakest link, and if we’re not all abiding by our practice and standards, then we are hurting not just ourselves but the entire profession and all of philanthropy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Better Together

As a Scot, I closely followed the recent referendum on Scottish independence and was pleased to see that a majority of my native country wanted to stay in the United Kingdom.

For me, it’s a situation that is somewhat analogous to many others, to Texas and the United States, or the relationships within multi-national organisations – like our own AFP: states and provinces that possess their own unique strengths and culture, but at the same time share similar traditions and connections with another country.

Could Scotland go independent? Yes. Would we better off? No, I don’t think so, and probably much worse off. We do share many ideas and traditions, to say nothing of history, with the rest of the United Kingdom, and it’s those similarities that are more important than our differences. The slogan for the referendum rang true: We are better together.

How does this all relate to nonprofits? For the last few years, the nonprofit sector has been united against proposals to reduce the value of the charitable deduction. Through the Charitable Giving Coalition—which AFP helped found—the sector has stood together in fighting against the White House and members of Congress that see charities as just another source of revenue.

That’s something that needs to continue even as we begin to push forward on other issues, such as new tax incentives for giving. We may have different priorities in terms of incentives or what other nonprofit matters Congress should address next. But we will be far more effective if we remain united and continue to work together. The adage that “a rising tide lifts all boats” is an accurate one.

It would be easy for the sector to drift apart—sometimes it seems that we only truly come together when a crisis emerges. But this time, we need to have the foresight to stay united and work as a coalition, even if we aren’t always addressing the particular issues our organizations favor.

We share far more similarities than differences, and we ARE much better together.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Does the Code Mean to You?

50 years ago, AFP created its first code of ethics.

It had four provisions related to: conducting yourself by generally accepted standards of truth, accuracy, fair dealing and good taste;” protecting privacy of anonymous donors; prohibiting commissions and percentage-based compensation; and abiding by all appropriate laws and regulations.

Our current code has 25 standards covering everything from presentation of information and use of funds to conflict of interest and privacy. AFP has become the leader in fundraising ethics, and our code remains one of the few in the world that’s enforceable.

But it’s not the number of standards that’s important—or its enforcement policy—but what the code means to each of us that’s truly critical.

Ethics isn’t just a list of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not a scorecard of ethical behavior. It’s guidance. It can be a source of inspiration. It’s a statement of our values and what we want society to look like. It can mean many different things to each of us at different points in our professional careers.

As we celebrate 50 years of the AFP Code of Ethics, we celebrate what the code has meant—and will continue to mean—to each of us. Each standard has helped to shape and define the profession and our body of work.

And I’d like to hear from you about what the code has meant in your work. Did it serve as guidance in a situation involving your board. Did it inspire a donor to give? Did you work out a situation with a donor using the standards? Or has it been something even more personal to you along your career path?

Let us know as we celebrate the 50th anniversary. Comment below or send your story to